February 26, 2021 Read 5 Min

To Build for iOS or Android First? 4 Key Differences to Consider

Starting off on the right platform is the first step to ensuring your app flourishes the way it should. Here are 4 differences to keep an eye on.

Male hand holding Apple iPhone 12 Pro and Android Samsung Galaxy S10 side by side

Is iOS or Android a better place to start when it comes to launching new mobile apps? Let’s explore.

Mobile apps are becoming an increasingly lucrative venture, and a quick look at the numbers can tell us why. Recent research shows that mobile users spend 90% of their screen time on apps, and only 10% on browsers. Apps also push more people down the purchase funnel, with 3x higher conversion rates compared to mobile sites and even 1.5x more conversions per session than via desktop.

It’s no surprise that businesses from verticals left and right are catching on on the value of both iOS and Android development, but unless they have a surplus of time and resources at hand, when it comes to an initial launch, a choice must be made between the two platforms.

But why exactly? Short answer: It’s extremely risky. 

Launching on both iOS and Android platforms simultaneously may be the dream for apps just starting out, but most experts in the industry would strongly advise against it. To put it simply, shooting for both hoops at the same time will incur high development and marketing costs, as well as take longer periods to launch due to high volumes of complex work. 

On a positive note, focusing on one platform before branching out to the other will allow you to focus on a more targeted audience base and refine your core app experience, before you ready it for growth and expansion. In fact, this is how many great apps started out — Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.

When it comes down to deciding on the platform of your choice, it is absolutely necessary to understand how exactly it can reap you more benefit than the other. So to help clear the fog on whether you should go for iOS or Android for your first launch, here are the 4 main categories in which they differ.

1. Audience

Android users are more saturated in developing countries, while iOS users are generally more affluent and saturated in developed countries. That being said, it’s safe to say that launching on iOS first will (if executed well) give you a slight advantage of being visible to more individuals with higher influence and purchasing power, as well as the press. 

Launching on Android first may not give you those perks but it will definitely give you the advantage of a larger user base and broader reach. If you’re looking to emphasize push notifications, especially, you might see better results with Android users. According to a study by Accengage, Android showed both higher notification opt-in rates and stronger click-through rates, compared to iOS. Many believe it has to do with the way Android has more prominent and sticky notifications, while iOS hides notifications in the notification center after they’re seen.

Aside from potential for reach and engagement, there are many other ways these two user groups can be compared. Take a look at some of their social, economic, and political differences here on an infographic made by Hunch back in 2011. Depending on what pain points your app addresses or plans to address, you can find user data that helps you decide where you can form a stronger audience. 

All in all, take some time to study your market. If you already have an audience, what platform does the bulk use or prefer? If you don’t, is the majority in your industry, region and targeted demographic more likely to own an iOS or Android device?

2. Time

Many sources state that Android development takes a longer time because it involves about 40% more code than iOS development, but many also argue that this isn’t necessarily true. Development periods for either platform would heavily depend on a team’s proficiency in whatever language they are using, be it Java, Kotlin, Objective-C or Swift.

However, Android development is universally believed to be slower because of the larger number of devices to test on, and hence, higher volume of bug fixes and maintenance that comes with it. With tens of thousands of different devices, there is just a much larger variety of screen dimensions, processors and operating system (OS) versions to be considered in development. 

iOS development, on the other hand, is believed to be a simpler task for a couple of reasons. (1) It involves fewer devices, and (2) most iOS users keep their operating systems up to date. Why the latter matters is that, based on the worldwide iOS version share on Statista, targeting the latest few operating systems would exclude less than 10% of the user base. In contrast, the Android operating system share is much more varied and evenly distributed, making it costly to focus on only the newer versions and exclude older versions. 

Despite the many positives for iOS, Apple is known to have a longer review process and stricter guidelines when it comes to getting new apps on the shelf in the App Store. In some cases, apps may get rejected entirely due to inconsistency with the predefined rules.

So what’s the verdict? Both platforms take time but on different portions of the delivery process — Android may take up more time in development and maintenance, while iOS may take up more time in operations.

3. Budget 

Generally, iOS apps cost more to develop, and the reasons have to do with a few things — the devices they’re built on, publishing fees, and resourceability.

iOS development requires a Mac to ensure the standard Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is met, maintain consistency across devices, and avoid issues with unsupported configuration. On the flip side, Android development can be done on most platforms. 

Why does this cost more? It’s pretty obvious. Macs and Macbooks are relatively more expensive than other devices from manufacturers like HP, Dell and Lenovo. Agencies will need to provide their developers Apple machines in order to carry out iOS development.

Which brings us to resourcing. Since iOS development requires a Mac or Macbook, there are bound to be more Android developers than iOS developers, given its more accessible nature. Especially in regions with fewer Apple consumers like SouthEast Asia, it may be difficult to source and costly to hire iOS engineers. However, hiring remote workers is an alternative commonly considered to overcome these problems in talent availability and cost.

When it comes to fees, Android Play Store has the much smaller bill with a one-time fee of USD$25 to start publishing apps to the store, while Apple’s App Store charges an annual fee of USD$99. 

Though these reasons may point you towards Android as the evidently more affordable option, keep in mind that they may or may not affect how app development agencies adjust their prices. Some may take the aforementioned factors into consideration with their quotations, while others may not. If you’re opting for a development agency, it’s still best to compare their prices upfront.

4. Monetization

According to app revenue data from Business of Apps, Android, despite leading in total users, has been consistently outperformed in revenue generation by Apple’s App Store over the years. Despite having less than 15 percent of worldwide market share, iOS users have shown higher willingness to spend on apps and in-app purchases. 

What this means is that you’re more likely to profit from iOS users if your app is a paid app, but less likely to earn ad revenue from them (because they’re more likely to pay to get rid of ads). So if you’re making a free app and focusing on ads, go Android. If you’re making a paid app with in-app purchases, go iOS. 

After all, if you can get your product to market and build a funnel from acquisition to revenue on iOS, you can be confident that your business model ‘works’ and will probably work on Android, though you should expect lower ASP and conversion.

The Summary

To wrap it all up, launching on iOS first could give you better chances of top-level exposure and revenue growth from paid app and in-app purchasing features, but these may come with the price of higher development costs, more stringent updates and longer review processes. 

On the other end, if you’re launching a free app, looking to explore up-and-coming markets like SouthEast Asia, India and Latin America, and plan to earn mostly through ad revenue or push notification marketing, launching on Android first may be the safest bet.

Need Help?

Snappymob is an expert web and app development agency that is experienced in kick-starting all-new mobile app strategies. 

Take a look at our work or drop us a message on your upcoming project!

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